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November 14, 2018

A closer look: Gun violence policies adopted by WSMA House of Delegates

In the wake of two horrific mass shooting events - the killing of twelve people by a gunman in Thousand Oaks, Calif. and the massacre by a gunman of 11 congregants at a Pittsburgh synagogue - it's worth pausing a moment to consider the physicians and providers who have a front-row seat to the carnage created by gun violence. Physicians work tirelessly to reduce the impact of gun violence on bodies, and here in Washington state, they are also working to reduce the frequency of gun violence by seeking policy changes at the federal, state, and local level.

During last month's WSMA Annual Meeting, the WSMA House of Delegates adopted a total of 10 new policies related to gun violence (Resolutions C-9 through 14). They are:

  • RESOLVED, that the WSMA advocate for measures to reduce gun violence.
  • RESOLVED, that the WSMA support the elimination of laws intruding on physicians’ and patients’ rights to discuss gun violence.
  • RESOLVED, that the WSMA support encouraging physicians and health care workers to discuss safe storage of guns and the association of guns with risk of homicide, accidental shooting, and suicide, and counsel about risk.
  • RESOLVED, that the WSMA support closing loopholes in gun purchases online and at unregulated gun shows.
  • RESOLVED, that the WSMA support policy that creates weapons-free zones for medical practice settings, allowing exceptions for law enforcement.
  • RESOLVED, that the WSMA support policy to address firearm-related violence and injury as a public health issue.
  • RESOLVED, that the WSMA support policy that provides for background checks and waiting periods for the purchase of firearms.
  • RESOLVED, that the WSMA support policy that will encourage and promote the safe storage of firearms in homes where those firearms are kept.
  • RESOLVED, that the WSMA support policy that raises the minimum age to purchase a firearm to 21 years of age.
  • RESOLVED, that the WSMA encourage its members to screen for risk factors of firearm injury and educate patients about prevention and safe storage.

In addition to those new policies, WSMA delegates also reaffirmed existing policy that calls on the WSMA to support appropriate legislation that would restrict the sale and private ownership of large-clip, high-rate-of-fire automatic and semi-automatic firearms. Finally, WSMA delegates directed the WSMA to urge the state and federal government to fund research on the causes and prevention of firearm violence and injury and ensure that the databases and systems necessary for research and public health surveillance are available and publicly accessible.

Washington's citizens are acting too: during this year's midterm election, voters passed Initiative 1639, which appears to largely align with WSMA policy requiring safe storage and restricting the purchase of firearms under certain circumstances.

The creation of strong policy is at the heart of the WSMA's work, and reflects a commitment from Washington physicians to the health and welfare of patients and communities that extends beyond the exam room. Find all the new policies adopted by the 2018 WSMA House of Delegates on the House of Delegates page. For a comprehensive list of House of Delegates policy, review the WSMA Policy Compendium on our Policies page.

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